1972 saw Alice Cooper on top of the world, but while they could have recorded a collection of short hit single material, they continued to do it their way with another true classic mixing the hits with more complex material. Everyone still remembers the title track of course, but material like 'Gutter Cats Vs The Jets' and 'My Stars' should have once and for all rid the band of any suggestion they were anything less then world class. 'Blue Turk' showed a jazz influence, while 'Gutter Cats...' and 'Grande Finale' highlighed the influence of film and musical theatre. Another essential release with not a bad moment.
June 1972 (UK-July?)
- School's Out (Cooper, Bruce, Buxton, Dunaway, Smith)(3:26)
- Luney Tune (Dunaway, Cooper)(3:36)
- Gutter Cat Vs. The Jets (Buxton, Dunaway, Bernstein, Sondheim)(4:39)
- Street Fight (Cooper, Bruce, Buxton, Dunaway, Smith)(0:55)
- Blue Turk (Bruce, Cooper)(5:29)
- My Stars (Cooper, Ezrin)(5.46)
- Public Animal #9 (Bruce, Cooper)(3:53)
- Alma Mater (Smith)(3:39)
- Grand Finale (David, Bernstein, Ezrin, Cooper, Smith, Dunaway, Buxton, Bruce)(4:36)
- Alice Cooper - Vocals and Harmonia
- Neal Smith - Drums and Vocals
- Dennis Dunaway - Bass and Vocals
- Glen Buxton - Lead Guitar
- Michael Bruce - Rhythm Guitar, Vocals, Piano and Organ
- Bob Ezrin - Keyboards, Mini-Moog
- Dick Wagner - Guitar on 'My Stars'
- Reggie Vincent - Guitar and Vocals (Guitar on 'Luney Tune', ''Public Animal',
'Alma Mater', he also plays the 'Happy Trails' riff with Dennis Dunaway)
Produced By Bob Ezrin for Nimbus 9 Productions
Recording Engineers: Roy Cicala and Shelly Yakus
Recording Technicians: Danny Turbeville, Frank Hubach and Dennis Ferrante
Recorded and Remixed at The Record Plant, New York and the Alice Cooper Mansion, Connecticut
Photography: Robert Offer (the desk) and Prignet (the band)
String and Horn Arrangements: Bob Ezrin
Album Design: Wilkes & Braum inc.
Jacket Concept: Sound Packaging Corp.
Album Notes - (Detailed release information)
If 'Love It To Death' put the band on the map, and 'Killer' put them into the big league, then 'School's Out' was the one that put them over the top. Everyone knows 'School's Out' EVERYONE. It's as iconic as a song can get, up there with 'My Generation' and 'Satisfaction'. Even if they can't remember who recorded it they can sing along to the chorus. It's been used in films, and adverts for decades to illustrate freedom and escape. But the album it comes from is often a little forgotten, caught between the epic horror of 'Killer' and the glitter and glam of 'Billion Dollar Babies', yet it's every bit as good as both those gems, if not better. The whole album hangs together extremely well with it's "school" theme, and the songs are matched perfectly with the school desk cover to invoke that end of term feeling everyone remembers from their youth.
The first single, the title track, did extremely well reaching #1 in the UK, #7 in the US, and similar high positions across Europe. A video clip was prepared using footage filmed at the 'Hollywood Bowl', and the band appeared in person performing on BBC TV's highly influential 'Top Of The Pops' programme, the footage of which is nowadays seen more often then the actual promotional video clip. The follow-up single to 'School's Out' was actually 'Elected', taken from the next album 'Billion Dollar Babies' but released some months before that album.
The 'School's Out' album was released in June 1972 entering the Billboard charts dated July 1st at #146 while 'Killer' was still in the top 40. By July 28th it had reached #2 (#4 in the UK) and was certified 'Gold' by October 1972. By 1986 it was well over 'Platinum' and has of course continued to sell well ever since.
The Album Title
For decades Alice has told the same basic story about the origins of the 'School's Out' title. He was watching a 'Bowery Boys' movie during which 'Mugs' turns to 'Sach' and says "Hey Sach, School's Out", meaning 'Hey Sach, wise up'. The problem is he has never named the actual film and in all likelyhood can't remember. Now There are a LOT of 'Bowery Boy' related films and many are pretty similar so this is completely understandable. Alice:
'The Bowery Boys' were a group of New York based actors who had previously gone though various names including 'The Dead End Kids' and 'The East Side Kids' in a series of successful films that began in 1937. The character of 'Mugs', was played by actor Leo Gorcey, and very recognisable especially to a fan of the films, so it seems likely Alice is remembering this correctly. However over the course of his career Gorsey played the exact same character many times and he wasn't always called 'Mugs'. He was only 'Mugs' in the 'East Side Kids' films. In the Bowery Boys' films he was 'Slip', and earlier in the 'Dead End Kids' films the name changed in each film... but it was still the same basic character. The same goes for many of the other actors in the films. Same actor, same basic character but a different name. To complicate it more the character of 'Mugs' was only in the 'East Side Kids' film series, but the character of 'Sach' is only in 'Bowery Boys' movies... so the two named characters never met! Add to all that the possibility Alice simply used character names he recalled from the series rather then the exact film he saw and you have hours of footage to search with little to help pin down which film it may be.
In August 1999 I recieved an email from Jim Roberts who finally had an answer:
The boys are recouping back at their local hangout - Louie's Sweet Shop - after dealing with some gangsters (a common theme early in the series). They are sitting in a booth (4 or 5 of them) trying to figure out what to do next in dealing with these gangsters. 'Sach' and 'Whitey' get into exchanging one word lines between them. 'Slip' and 'Sach' are sitting next to each other facing the entrance to Louie's shop. 'Slip' Mahoney notices that the gangsters are just about to walk into the shop to confront them when 'Sach' says "books" in his argument with 'Whitey'. 'Slip' says "speaking of books, school is out" in reference to the gangsters coming in and to 'wise up'. So now you know, yes, he said 'school is out' not 'school's out' but close enough.
So we finally had our answer and I was happy with that until something new appeared. I got to see 'Angeles In Disguise' thanks to the internet making all sorts of material available that was't there when I created this site. The movie goes exactly as Jim describes, but in the context, at least to me, 'school is out' doesn't really equal "wise up". It's more like, "heads up, school's over" as it points the other characters to the gangsters who have just enetered the room behind them. This bothered me.
In 2014 Banger Films released their excellent but flawed documentary 'Super Duper Alice Cooper'. In it they show a short clip from an 'East End Kids' movie called 'Flying High' and in the clip Leo Gorcey, as 'Mugs', cups his hand to hide his mouth and shouts to Donald Haines as 'Skinny' - "relax Skinny... School's Out". So that's it! The concrete proof of where Alice heard the term 'School's Out'. But there's a catch. As with many clips in the film this one has been doctored. What 'Mugs' actually shouts in the original film is just "Hey Skinny". He doesn't say 'School's Out'. That bit has been added by Banger films. It does appear that the voice saying "School's Out' in 'Super Duper' sounds like Gorcey though but it appears it's faked.
The question is why wouldn`t Banger films use the actual clip featuring the 'school's out' line if the found the actual line used in a film? Is the 'School's Out' soundbite real? It sounds real, but Banger prove throughout the film they are very good at playing with sound and footage to illustrate things when no real footage exists. If they had found the actual clip why not use it? Why go to the trouble of faking a clip using a scene from a different movie? Most of the possible films are nowadays freely available to watch online, presumably they are so old as to be public Domain or something. But that's a awful lot of films to watch and while I've scanned quite a few I've yet to find anything apart from the clip Banger used in 'Super Duper'. It's like looking for a needle in a haystack, two words in hours of footage.
One last thing before I leave this minor bit of trivia. There is a 1930s film in the'Our Gang' series of short films that is actually called 'School's Out', and I'm told there is also a film featuring Groucho Marx and Frank Sinatra ('Double Dynamite?') where someone says 'School's Out'. It's likely the band had at some point seen both these films.
Dennis Dunaway on 'Luney Tune':
Alice Cooper on the cover of 'Circus' Magazine, August 1972
Alice, in 'Circus' magazine 1972:
'Gutter Cat vs. The Jets' is, of course, very influenced by 'West Side Story' and features music and lyrics directly from the musical. As such the band added songwriting credits to 'West Side Story' writers Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim. As 'Grand Finale' also features brief reprise of 'Gutter Cat' Bernstein gets a credit there too. Dennis Dunaway:
In the song 'Gutter Cat Vs. The Jets' when performed live, Alice sometimes makes reference to 'A Clockwork Orange' when he sings "I'm Singing In The Rain.. Just singing in the rain".
In 'Alma Mater', Alice sings about both Camelback and Cortez high school`s. This is because while everyone but Neal wanted it to be sung "Cortez" both times,. Neal insisted "Camelback" (his alma mater) was in there too. Neal went to Camelback, the rest went to Cortez.
Miss Axelrod was a real teacher at Cortez High School in Phoenix.
When asked about the jazz influence on 'Blue Turk' Dennis Dunaway had the following to say:
For the AC 'Billion Dollar Babies' album, however, I did write a serious follow-up to 'Blue Turk' called 'Green Grotto', which I have a cassette with Ainsley Dunbar, Bob Dolan, and myself playing it. It never got recorded in the studio though.
"Dick Wagner plays guitar on 'My Stars', At the end of the song the words "Klaatu barada nikto" appear in background. 'Klaatu barada nikto' is from the Science Fiction classic 'The Day the Earth Stood Still'.
'Grand Finale' features riffs from various songs on the album as well as substantial quotes from the soundtrack to 'Walk On The Wildside' by Elmer Bernstein, hence he get's a songwriting credit.
Alice held a press party to celebrate the British success of 'School's Out' at Chessington Zoo in south London. The stripper they had booked for the party wasn't very good, so the heavily-chested Stacia, the exotic dancer for 'Hawkwind', decided to takeover.
The cover of 'School's Out' was a unique design which, when you unfolded the die-cut legs onthe back cover, formed a replica desk. Opening the lid of the desk revealed the vinyl record wrapped in a pair of paper panties and a report card.
The album supposedly ran into problems due to the inclusion of the paper panties (in pink, white or blue) as apparently they failed to comply with Trade Commission standards. According to 'Billion Dollar Baby', Shep Gordon was well aware of this fact and had in fact gone as far as anonymously calling the customs guards to inform them of the fact in case they had forgotten! The story got international newspaper coverage, a sign of how big the band now was.
A common question is "why are there only four band members in the photo on the 'School's Out' cover (and the single pic sleeves)." Actually Dennis IS there, in the trash can, but it's very hard to see him in the final photo.
The Hard Rock Cafe in Berlin has the original school desk that was photographed for the 'School's Out' cover. The signatures on the desk were engraved by each band member personaly. Decades later the same basic design was used for the 'Old School' box set.
Due to the fact the band went straight from the 'Killer' tour into the 'School's Out' tour they had no time to create a completely new show. As such the 'School's Out' show was very similar to the 'Killer' show with just a few song and costume changes. 'Be My Lover' was replaced by 'Public Animal #9' as the opener (the former moved to the middle of the set) and 'Gutter Cat vs. The Jets/Street Fight' replaced 'Dead Babies'. 'Street Fight' was not in fact performed live, but was a tape loop played over the PA. This allowed the band to put down their instruments and play the part of a street gang. Neal jumped over his drum kit, knife in hand, to attack Alice in a very realistic brawl, ending with him stabbing Alice who, weaken, is taken to the gallows and hung during 'Killer'. 'School's Out' closed the show, and as of the European leg of the tour 'Elected' replaced 'Long Way To Go', as it was released as a single some months before the 'Billion Dollar Babies' album to capitalise on the success of the 'School's Out' single.
The new elements in the show are best seen in the classic 'ABC In Concert' TV show which, while only part of the show, does include 'Gutter Cat', Street Fight' and 'Killer'.
- Instrumental Intro
- Public animal # 9
- Caught in a Dream
- Under My Wheels
- Be My Lover
- I'm Eighteen
- Is It My Body-My Very Own
- Halo of Flies
- Gutter Cat Vs The Jets
- Street Fight
- Long Way To Go (replaced with 'Elected' on the European leg of the tour after 17th/18th November.)
- School's Out